Garden Recipe: A gratin of Swiss chard for Christmas
Rainbow chard seems to be the only vegetable in my patch at home, that has managed to withstand torrid heat, floods of rain, and even our recent snow and ice this year. I would love it even without its displays of resilience though. As do the caterpillars, sadly. Chard is a wonderful vegetable with an earthy, slightly mineral flavour, a texture that holds its own and brightly coloured architectural stems that never fail to delight the eyes. It can even be grown as a wonderful ornamental in your borders. I often wonder why chard isn’t more widely eaten, hence it can be quite hard to get hold of in the supermarket.
Swiss Chard works really well in an array of dishes, including pasta, soups, curries or on its own; lightly steamed with nothing more than some garlic, butter and a squeeze of lemon.
Most perfect of all though I think, is doused in cream and lightly baked. I urge you to try this dish if you’re on the fence, and especially if you’re a chard lover like me.
Sweat your onion over a light heat, in some olive oil and half a teaspoon of coarse sea-salt, until softly glistening. Move to one side and add your garlic and fry for one minute, until fragrant but not coloured. Add your anchovies, fry for a minute or so until broken down and give everything a good mix together. Strip the leaves of your chard and leave to one side. Chop the stems into smaller pieces and add these to the onion mix. Continue to fry for around 5 minutes or so. Roughly chop the leaves and add them, until just wilted. Squeeze some lemon juice over, to taste.
Scrape the mixture into a smallish oven-proof dish, pour over the cream until just covered, stir in the mustard powder and the grated nutmeg. Give it a stir, a taste and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the bread crumbs over the top, a good grating of parmesan cheese and bake at 180 degrees (fan oven) until bubbling and golden brown, around 20 to 30 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving.